It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Chances Are" comes from the same gene bank as all the other mind-swap and reincarnation movies recently, but the movie is smart and entertaining. It proves the underlying thesis of all film criticism, which is that movies are not about their stories, they're about how they're about their stories. Plots are easy. Style is everything. "Chances Are" is a lighthearted romance about reincarnation, told with wit and a certain irony.
Movies like this depend to a great degree on the personal styles of their actors: If we don't warm to the people on the screen, and care about their feelings, then the plot is just the clanking and grinding of vast interchangeable machines. All four of the leading actors in "Chances Are" devote themselves to the material as if they really believed in it, and that's why this silly story works yet once again. The difference between good and bad acting in a romantic comedy is that in the good performances the characters somehow convince us that their hearts are actually at risk.
Cybill Shepherd stars in "Chances Are" as a Washington, D.C., professional woman whose husband is killed in a traffic accident in the early 1960s. She never quite gets over that loss. Years pass and then decades, and she still treasures her love in her heart. She was pregnant when she became a widow, and she raises her daughter (Mary Stuart Masterson) and leads her life and never remarries. Her love is so constant that she remains oblivious to the fact that the family's best friend (Ryan O'Neal) has always been in love with her.
Meanwhile, we get another one of those standard movie fantasies of heaven, in which everyone walks around on white clouds and speaks English and looks like they were painted by Norman Rockwell. And we discover that it's time for the soul of Shepherd's dead husband to be recycled back to earth again. Through a heavenly mixup, however, the soul is not inoculated with a special forgetfulness serum, and so the scene is set for the reincarnated husband to recognize his wife again.